This month in the northern hemisphere we celebrate the summer solstice, aka the first day of summer.
For many people, this is their favorite time of year. The weather is lovely; you can get outside for walks in the sunshine and sit out on your patio with a good book in the cool evening. No shoveling snow, no traipsing through puddles in your galoshes.
But for some people, summer keeps them cooped up in the house just as much a winter does. When the heat sets in and you can fry an egg on the sidewalk, or the humidity is so high it feels like you walked into a sauna when you walk out the door of your house, you feel more like staying inside with the air conditioner blasting than getting a dose of sunshine.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the winter blues, is talked about a lot. SAD affects more than 10 million Americans. But there isn’t a lot of conversation about what high heat does to our attitudes.
Even here in Colorado, Gaiam’s home state, the heat can get unbearable in the summer. So I rely on these three things to keep myself feeling good when the sun is baking the world outside my window.
By The FIRM Master Instructor Annie Lee
Do you remember having to do the mile-run fitness test in school? Holy cow! I don’t know about you, but those were some of the worst times in my life. Not only did I hate the little-bitty PE shorts they gave you, but I also hated having to complete the test in front of everyone. I don’t know if it was because it was timed — or because I had those little shorts that would ride up with every step I took — or because I had to do it in front of everyone that made it all so traumatic for me, but it has taken me a long time to get over running that timed mile.
But at this point in my life I am finally over it and actually look forward to challenging myself. So, at the risk of sounding like my old PE teacher, let’s talk about how you can go about improving your mile time, whether you’re walking, jogging or running.
We all know the answer to this one: Because it will improve your cardiovascular fitness. When we set guidelines or goals for exercise, it helps us know where we are starting, what we need to do to improve, and how far we have come in the process. By challenging yourself, you feel good about what you have accomplished and you WILL get fitter!
I love walking — outside, on a treadmill, whatever — but I have a little problem commonly known as lack of motivation. On days when it’s cold outside, or drizzly, or appears to be either of the above, I am easily dissuaded from working out … and easily persuaded to sleep the extra half hour instead. But I hate the “no cookie for you today” feeling of regret that not working out brings.
Lucky for me (and you!), GaiamTV.com has a ton of great walking workout videos. They’re perfect for working out at home — no weather restrictions, no too-loud-for-the-downstairs-neighbors cardio; just fun routines for burning calories.
My favorites combine upper-body strengthening with the lower-body workout. If they have gorgeous scenery, so much the better! These videos eliminate my excuses and, in time, my jeans size. Here are my top five favorites from Gaiam TV. I’m confident you’ll find at least one in here that will tempt you to pick up the pace.
By The FIRM Master Instructor Annie Lee
Are you confused by all of the information out there about cardio fitness and how to do it so that you get the best results?
“Eat before your workout — No, don’t eat before your workout!”
“Running burns the most calories but walking burns more fat!”
“Work out for 30 minutes a day or don’t bother working out at all!”
It’s enough to put any girl off her workout routing. That’s why we’re getting to the truth behind some popular “cardio myths” — to help you sort out the fact from the fiction.
It usually takes me seven minutes to get to my daughter’s preschool. Today, it took 27.
That’s because, for the first time in 18 months, I strapped my 11-month-old son into the double stroller and walked there.
I like to walk. Our family of four has one car, and in the two years that we’ve owned it, we’ve only put 14,000 miles on the odometer.
I’m not alone. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, nearly 80 percent of respondents look for homes in pedestrian-friendly areas and 59 percent would choose a smaller home if it meant less driving.
Still, I find that once I’ve gotten into the habit of driving someplace — my daughter’s preschool, the Trader Joe’s on the other side of the highway, the garden store — I tend to keep on driving there, deeming it too far to reach on foot. The funny thing is, once I decide to test walking to a destination once, I realize not only how doable it is but also how satisfying running that errand becomes.
So now I’m on a quest of sorts: to debunk the myth that certain places in my everyday life are too far to reach on foot.
Planning and scheduling time with those you love is obviously crucial to maintaining a healthy and happy relationship. We are all so busy these days that it’s always a good idea to schedule time to reconnect.
If you’re like most people, your dates/special times are based on “calories consumed,” whether that means eating at a new restaurant, getting snacks at a movie, meeting for a fancy coffee or a glass of wine after work. These things can be great ideas for spending time together but once in a while why not try looking at the opportunity to be with those you love a little differently?
Plan your time with loved ones based on “calories burned.” What I mean is to pick activities to do together that are focused on being active and expending calories.
Whenever I visit Europe — whether to explore a few former Soviet bloc countries or to take a 2,000-mile driving trip through Italy and Switzerland’s Ticino region — I’m always struck upon “re-entry” into the U.S. by how BIG everything is here at home.
We drive big cars, especially here in Colorado, where every other vehicle seems to be an SUV. Our cars have big cup holders for our venti Frappucinos and Big Gulp sodas. We live in big houses that we furnish with stuff we buy at big-box stores. Our big refrigerators – and often an extra freezer – are crammed full of food we purchase at big supermarkets. And, alas, we ourselves are big, and getting bigger: According to the American Heart Association, more than 70 percent of American adults are overweight, and of those, nearly 38 percent are obese.
Europeans clearly do things differently from us. Yet their ‘smaller’ lives seem in many ways richer and fuller. I’ve begun to notice some of those differences that we might do well to consider. Here are five that really struck me:
by The FIRM Master Instructor Jennifer Ray
I think we can all agree on one thing: Life is busy. With that said, who has time to exercise?
I’m not here to scold, because we are all guilty of making excuses as to why we don’t have time to exercise. And I’m not saying these excuses aren’t often legitimate either — sometimes there really aren’t enough hours in the day! What I am here to do is offer easy solutions to a problem that faces us all.
We all know that the key ingredients to weight loss and maintenance are exercise, healthy nutrition and proper rest. But what happens when you feel like you’re no longer getting results with your exercise routine? Does this mean that exercise doesn’t work anymore? Not a chance! It could just mean that you need to break out of your current workout rut — variety is the spice of life, after all!
Here are four signals that your routine might need a tune-up:
1. Your workout bores you.
You used to enjoy walking outside, so why do you dread your walk workout each day? It’s easy to get bored if you stick with the same routine for too long. Sometimes it helps to add variety to your walks. For example, try listening to music when you walk, adding speed or hill intervals, or bringing a family member or friend along with you. I’m sure your family pooch would welcome a stroll around the neighborhood! If all of that isn’t enough, then maybe it’s time to try a new activity. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try biking or are interested in taking a dance class? Change can help keep your workouts fun and interesting, giving you something to look forward to.
When it’s time to leave home, consider the planet as you make your plans. These simple practices take little effort but can make a big impact on the environment — not just for Earth Day, but every day.
1. Start before you go
Unplug your electronic appliances when you leave home for an extended time, especially those with digital or LCD displays such as TVs or microwaves — these suck a lot of power whether they are switched on or not. The Department of Energy estimates that so-called “vampire” or “phantom” energy waste accounts for 5 percent of total electronic energy consumption in the United States. You should also make sure your thermostat is turned down or off, and reduce the setting on your water heater.